Retired Bishop Daily dies; recalled for being a missionary 'at heart'

Bishop Thomas Daily of Brooklyn, N.Y., applauds as he shares a laugh with President George H. Bush in 1992. (CNS/Ed Wilkinson, The Tablet)

Douglaston, New York — Retired Bishop Thomas Daily of Brooklyn, who headed the diocese from 1990 until his retirement in 2003, died early May 15 at the Immaculate Conception Center's Bishop Mugavero Residence in Douglaston in the borough of Queens. He was 89.

Funeral arrangements were not yet available.

"Bishop Daily was a man who personified the Second Vatican Council's call for a preferential option for the poor," Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn said in a statement. "He ministered to indigenous people amidst poverty in Peru, women in crisis pregnancies, as well as new and often poor immigrants living in Brooklyn.

"He never acted out of malice or to further his own self-interest. At heart he was a missionary. I suspect he wished he could have remained in the missions his entire life," DiMarzio added.

Daily was installed as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn in 1990 and served during a time of racial tension and financial hardship. In his later years, Bishop Daily suffered declining health.

As a young priest, then-Father Daily served the indigenous people of Lima, Peru, for five years. Ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston in 1952 by Cardinal Richard Cushing, he joined the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle in 1960 and moved to the Minatambo area of Lima. He often referred to his time there, ministering to the poor, as the happiest of his life.

Founded in 1958 by Cushing, the missionary society is an international organization of diocesan missionary priests who volunteer a minimum of five years of their priestly lives to service in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. It was established by the cardinal in response to St. John XXIII's call for members of the Catholic Church in economically favored nations to assist their fellow Catholics in Latin America.

Daily was born Sept. 23, 1927, to Mary McBride Vose and John Daily, in Belmont, Massachusetts.

His graduated from Boston College, and after his studies at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts, he was ordained by Cushing at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Following ordination, he was assigned as curate for St. Ann's Church in the Wollaston neighborhood of Quincy, Massachusetts. He remained in that post through the rest of the 1950s.

After returning to Boston after his time as a missionary, he was assigned again to St. Ann's, where he served as assistant pastor until 1971. Daily was appointed to the position of secretary to Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, who succeeded Cushing as Boston's archbishop.

In 1975, Daily was ordained as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Boston and in 1976, he was appointed vicar general of the archdiocese. Because of his fluency in Spanish, he was given special duties regarding the Spanish-speaking members of the archdiocese.

On July 17, 1984, Daily was appointed the first bishop of the new Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida. Among his most noteworthy actions was his leading of pro-life prayer vigils at local abortion clinics.

Daily also served as the supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus for many years. With the Knights, the Diocese of Brooklyn hosted Pope John Paul II for a celebration of the Mass at Aqueduct Race Track Oct. 6,1995.

On Aug. 1, 2003, Daily announced that his resignation as bishop of Brooklyn had been accepted by the pope.

As bishop emeritus, he was a member of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, a member of the boards of the Society of St. James the Apostle in Boston, and a member of the National Catholic Office for Persons With Disabilities in Washington.

Daily "served the Knights as supreme chaplain with dedication and joy from 1987 to 2005, and will be deeply missed," Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a May 15 statement. "In life, he followed the example of the Good Shepherd and cared deeply for his diocesan flock and for the Knights of Columbus. I invite all Knights and their families to remember him in their prayers."

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